On a silly stage that regularly features jugglers, a contortionist, a hypnotist, a hunchback and two woolen hicks posing as “The Buckfield Department of Tourism,” Oren Robinson is a quiet, steadying force.

For four years, Robinson has served as the musical director of the Early Evening Show, a live variety show masquerading as a TV talk show in Buckfield. The Oddfellow Theater’s cameras may be pretend. But the talented cast of improv veterans — led by host Mike Miclon and co-host Jason Tardy —  are supported for each show by Robinson’s live house band.

Each Early Evening Show features new music by Robinson and a song he creates on the spot about someone plucked from the audience (the person seated in the secret “Green Seat”).

We wanted to know more about the tall, bearded musician with the dry wit.

Name: Oren R. Robinson

Age: 31

Hometown: Friendship

Single, relationship or married? Good question. Let me know when you figure it out.

Children? I act like one, but no.

When did you know that playing music was more than a casual thing for you? I think it’s still casual, I try not to take myself too seriously. As a profession, I think it started just after college. As a lifestyle, you can’t be casual, it’s your life.

What’s the first song you ever performed? My folks were in a gospel band.  They sang all around the state in various churches, passing the plate during offering, eating potluck and drinking really bad coffee. I think I was 4 or 5 when I started singing a song called “Input/Output,” which was about the good you put in, and good that comes from it. Of course, this was in the early ’80s, so computers were nothing like what we have today. Thus, the song was a little off.

How did you get the regular gig on the Early Evening Show? My college roommate gave me a call.  He was directing the show and wanted some help.  I brought my drummer, had a good time and I’ve been there ever since. For the first couple years I don’t think Mike even knew my name, but now, I can’t really shake the cuss. (Seem to have become family?)

Does working on a fictitious TV talk show make you look at real TV talk shows and their bands differently? Not really. I don’t watch a lot of TV,  certainly not talk shows, but we do things pretty quickly at the show. I often don’t know until after the show what I am going to have to do. I assume TV bands have a little more planning time, a little more funding, a bigger fan base and fancier equipment. But in the end, it’s all about the music, the show and the joy of putting it all together.

As the musical director, how much are you part of the each show’s silliness? I get there about 4-5 p.m. Mike and crew are usually putting on the finishing touches (by finishing touches, I mean have barely started writing the show). I then come up and say a couple of witty things that no one gets (but later they steal for the show), I find out what they want me to do, then I go set up. When the band arrives, I give them the information and we play until production meeting (6:30 or so). By then, most of the show is written and I come to the meeting freshly out of band rehearsal, so I make fun of the script (some of which also makes it on stage). It’s all in good fun, and at the end of the night we hope that everyone has had an enjoyable time.

At every Early Evening Show, you create a song about a member of the audience who is interviewed. Do you ever worry that the song won’t come? Every single time. When Mike and Jason are asking the questions, I’m writing down the answers as fast as I can. Sometimes I have nothing good, and I can’t make any sort of sense, which is what causes me to be really nervous. Luckily, I have been able to create something that isn’t horrible when needed.   

What’s the best lyric you ever wrote? For the Green Seat we had a Christmas show guest called Carol. I believe the line was “she’s my Christmas Carol in the green seat.” Other than Green Seat songs, I would have to say, “One day I was in the store to buy the sun and the moon in a bottle . . .”

What makes a good song? A catchy tune and lyrics will carry you far, but add one small unexpected chord change and you have gold. A solid rhythmic structure is also a basic building block.

Who do you listen to? As many artists as I can, but my favorite ones are Johnny Cash, Chris Smithers, Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris and The Grateful Dead. Other less known influences are J.S. Bach, Josquin Des Pres, Hildegard von Bingham and Franz Schubert

Where can folks catch you live? Most Fridays at The Narrows Tavern, Waldoboro from 8:30 to about 11 p.m.with the Ale House String Band; March 4th and 5th at the Oddfellow Theater in Buckfield for the Early Evening Show; March 17th at King Eider’s Pub in Damariscotta from 7 to 9 p.m. with The Ale House String Band; April 15th at the Rock City Cafe in Rockland from 5 to 7 p.m. with The Ale House String Band.

Do you have a CD in stores? At this point, I don’t have a produced CD, but The Ale House String Band, of which I am a member, has a demo CD that is currently floating around, and the bare bones of a project that we are calling “String Theory.”


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